After having their NL East lead reduced over the weekend, the New York Mets were dealt another blow with the news that Orlando Hernandez is unavailable to start the opener of their series against the Washington Nationals.
The Mets start their final road trip of the season Monday in the opener of a three-game set with the Nationals when they send journeyman Brian Lawrence to the mound in Hernandez’s place.
New York (83-65) is looking to bounce back after being swept in a three-game series by the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend. The second-place Phillies won 10-6 on Sunday to cut the Mets’ lead in the division to 3 1/2 games. New York led by seven games last week.
“A bad time we picked to play bad baseball,” manager Willie Randolph said. “We were there about two weeks ago and we responded and I’m sure we’ll respond the same way this time.”
David Wright hit a solo home run in the seventh Sunday to become the third player in franchise history to reach 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season. New York hitting coach Howard Johnson and Darryl Strawberry also accomplished the feat with the Mets.
The Mets now begin a seven-game road stretch, which also includes a four-game series with the Florida Marlins. They finish the regular season by playing their final seven games at Shea Stadium, and 13 of their last 14 games are against Washington (66-83) and Florida—the two worst teams in the NL East.
“This, we just put in the past,” said shortstop Jose Reyes who committed two of the Mets’ season-high six errors on Sunday. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Hernandez’s health is a major concern for New York. The veteran right-hander, who is 5-1 with a 4.39 ERA since the All-Star break, is out indefinitely because of persistent pain in his right foot. He can run and throw, but is having discomfort during his pitching motion.
“We’ll just look at Duque as we move forward,” Randolph said. “But he’s feeling a little sore so we’re going to not push it and hope that he’ll be ready to slide in sometime soon.”
Hernandez missed all of last year’s postseason with a torn right calf muscle. Randolph said he wasn’t sure when Hernandez will return.
“He says it doesn’t bother him to run so that’s good,” Randolph said. “Obviously, it must have something to do with pushing off or he has an unorthodox delivery, maybe it has something to do with that but he says he feels it when he pitches.”
Randolph will hand the ball to Lawrence (1-2, 6.31 ERA) instead. The veteran was scheduled to pitch for Triple-A New Orleans on Saturday, but his team was swept in the Pacific Coast League championship series.
“Two more days, I’m more than ready as far as time,” said Lawrence, who hasn’t pitched since Sept. 7 against Nashville.
The right-hander’s last major league start was Aug. 27 against the Phillies, when he allowed five runs and 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 9-2 loss. Lawrence has not faced the Nationals since the franchise moved from Montreal. He was 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA in four starts against the Expos.
Tim Redding (3-5, 3.42) counters for Washington, making his first start since Sept. 5. Redding pitched a season-low 2 1-3 innings against Florida when a batted ball hit him in his elbow, forcing him out of the game.
Redding is 1-0 with a 3.13 ERA in four starts and one relief appearance in his career against the Mets. In a July 28 start, he allowed one run and five hits in six innings of a 3-1 loss.
Washington lost two of three to the Atlanta Braves over the weekend, including a 3-0 loss on Sunday. The Nationals have lost four of five and six of nine.
New York has won five straight games at RFK Stadium.